After finishing Immunity, I knew I had to try to wrangle an interview with Erin Bowman. I love how Immunity mixes science fiction, something more, and space all together!
They thought their nightmare was over, but Thea, Coen, and Nova’s rescue was only the beginning. After being imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety, it’s clear that the threat they left behind isn’t as distant as they’d hoped—and this time the entire galaxy is at risk.
Now that threat is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare. To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, the survivors must harness the evil they faced on the planet Achlys and learn to wield the only weapon they have left: themselves.
What was it like to write a duology? Did you know the ending before you began?
I found writing a duology more challenging than writing a trilogy. You’d think it would be easier; less books, right? But with a trilogy, your overarching story arc matches your number of books. Beginning book, middle book, end book; and each book within that set has a beginning, middle, and end. In a duology, however, your middle point in the overarching story arc falls RIGHT between books. Contagion ended with what I like to think of as the “hook” for the next story and nothing more, which left me writing the middle and end of the overall series in one book (Immunity). It was the most challenging book I’ve written to date. There were definitely times were I thought it would never come together.
I did know the ending for the series before I began. I always know my endings. If I don’t, that’s a red flag that I’m not ready to start writing. The way my characters reach that ending sometimes changes as I draft, but I like to have an end goal post to shoot for.
Where did you come up with the idea for Contagion?
Contagion was actually inspired by a dream. I was part of a crew traveling through deep space when our mechanic started acting strangely. We locked him in an airlock and watched him transform into something…not quite human. If you’ve read Contagion, you know the disease that the crew encounters acts a bit differently, but my nightmare provided the initial inspiration for the novel
Have you learned anything new about your writing process with each book you write?
I’ve learned that every book comes out a little differently, which basically means that with each new novel, I have to learn how to write a book all over again. One thing that I learned a few years ago though (that has yet to steer me wrong) is that I need a dedicated brainstorming phase for any project. The longer I’m able to let an idea simmer and marinate and develop in my subconscious (or consciously, as I brainstorm in a notebook), the less resistance I encounter when I finally start to draft.
Who have been some of your role models?
I’m inspired by so many of my peers, particularly the ones who have been doing this for awhile, are still turning out fantastic books, and have been kind enough to share advice/insights into this career with me. Robin LaFevers, Mary E Pearson, and Kate Elliot come to mind.
Can you talk about the warfare in Immunity and how it relates to the current political climate?
Many elements in Immunity (and Contagion) are inspired by current events. One of the central questions of the series is “are we strongest when we are unified or when we were independent?” Watching the events of Brexit unfold greatly inspired that. American events, too, such as the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and perhaps the entire 2016 election (more on that below). I believe that we are strongest when we are united, when resources are pooled, when people work together, when opportunities aren’t walled off or put behind lock and key. And, of course, when we are responsible stewards for our one and only planet. The world of Contagion/Immunity contains multiple planets that support life, but these mindsets (and the flip side) are mirrored if you look at the series’s Radical vs pro-Union groups.
As for the war itself, it hinges on biological warfare and controlling the truth. Or, what is perceived as truth. The villains in Immunity manipulate reports and steer news/media, which changes what is perceived as fact. The high-tech state of their world means this new truth spreads rapidly. We don’t have to look far to see how similar tactics are at play in our own world. Words matter. Facts matter. And when incorrect statements are presented as truth, especially online, they can spread like wildfire, often with disastrous consequences.
About Erin Bowman
Erin Bowman is the critically acclaimed author of numerous books for teens, including the Taken Trilogy, Vengeance Road, Retribution Rails, and the Edgar Award-nominated Contagion duology. A web designer turned author, Erin has always been invested in telling stories—both visually and with words. When not writing, she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. Erin lives in New Hampshire with her husband and children.